J.R. Heffner Claims 1st Lebanon Valley Victory Since 2019
The past couple of years have been a struggle at Lebanon Valley for J.R. Heffner. Saturday night saw additional engine issues for the Valatie, N.Y. native. However, he preserved to take his first win since 2019.
“I watched [Olden Dwyer] have his misfortune. Then I had the lead and a couple laps later, I dropped a cylinder,” Heffner said. “By rights, I should have pulled in. But, with the year we’ve been having, pulling in wasn’t an option. [The engine] would have had to give up on me for me to pull in.”
Dwyer was able to get past pole sitter Paul Gilardi on the first lap to take the lead. Heffner was able to follow past a couple of laps later.
As the race continued on, Dwyer opened up a small gap on Heffner, while Bobby Hackel, IV gave chase to the both of them. Further back, Andy Bachetti, Brett Haas and Marc Johnson were having limited success moving up the order.
Dwyer’s lead ultimately peaked at about two seconds over Heffner. Then, Heffner began to slowly reel in the Vermont native. However, trouble struck before he could get there. On lap 14, Dwyer’s car quit in turns 1 and 2. Heffner was able to sweep past into the lead as Dwyer was forced to pull in, done for the night.
Heffner inherited a decent advantage over Hackel, but his engine lost a cylinder a couple of laps after halfway. Losing a good chunk of his available power forced him to significantly alter his line. In addition, the lack of power meant that it was tough to deal with lapped traffic. That allowed Hackel to run him down.
Hackel was right there until he spun a bearing in his engine with five laps and was forced to retire. That allowed Heffner to take his first win in two years. Kolby Schroder was second, then Haas, Wayne Jelley and Bachetti.
The Small Block Modifieds had double features on tap. The first race in full sunlight saw Ryan Larkin snatch the lead from Alan Houghtaling at the start. Once out front, Larkin pulled away quickly from Ray Hall Jr.
Jason Herrington had the fastest car out there, but had to charge from ninth on the grid. As a result, Larkin and Hall were able to get well ahead. Herrington had just taken third from Chris Curtis on lap 12 when Brandon Lane spun in turn 2 and was hit by Brian Sandstedt to bring out the race’s only yellow. Lane was able to continue, but Sandstedt was out for the rest of Race No. 1 and missed Race No. 2
After the restart, Herrington took second and quickly pressured Larkin for the lead. The battle was relatively brief as the Brunswick, N.Y. native snatched the advantage on lap 16. From there, Herrington pulled away to take the win on track.
However, post-race inspection found issues with the firing order of the cylinders. DIRTcar has written in the specific firing order of the cylinders in Section 18.1.7H of the DIRTcar 358 Modified Rule Book. Herrington's engine did not meet this criteria.
As a result, Herrington was disqualified, giving the win to Larkin. Kolby Schroder, driving in place of Joey Coppola, was second, then Hall, Curtis and Bachetti.
Feature No. 2 saw Curtis take the lead on the first lap from Michael Sabia. Forward progress for drivers such as Bachetti was easier in the dark than with the sun still.
An early caution due to a spin for Sean Mandel in turn 4 kept the field close. Bachetti was able to get second from Hall a couple of laps after the invoice and began to pressure Curtis. It took to halfway, but Bachetti was able to get past to take the lead entering turn 1.
From there, Bachetti pulled away from the pack to take his third Small Block win of the year. Schroder was second once again, followed by Curtis, Lane and Hall.
In Pro Stock, Shawn Perez was supposed to start on pole, but a mechanical issue ended his night before the race start. That gave the pole to Tom O’Connor. Johnny Rivers got an excellent start and was able to snatch the lead away.
O’Connor ran right at the front until he had contact with Nick Hilt Jr. exiting turn 4 on lap 6. This spun him down onto the apron, where his car ended up climbing onto the pit wall to bring out a yellow. Hilt was sent to the rear for the contact. O’Connor was able to drive back to the pits after getting off of the wall, but was unable to continue.
Rivers chose the inside for the restart and that was not a good move as he got swamped. Jason Meltz took the lead here. Rivers ended up losing control in turn 4 while running three-wide and spinning out to bring out another yellow.
From there, Meltz was able to hold off a charging Chad Jeseo to take his first second win of the year. Jay Fitzgerald was third, then Zach Seyerlein and Steven LaRochelle.
In Pure Stock Feature No. 1, Ryan Brown started from the pole, but almost immediately lost it when Brian Walsh made a move for the lead in turn 1. Contact was made and Brown spun out. Walsh crashed as well, along with Keri VanDenburg as the first caution flew.
With everyone scrambling, three of the top four starters involved in the crash and the leaders reaching the backstretch scoring loop prior to the yellow flying, Dylan Fachini ended up coming out of the mess with the lead. He would take advantage of his position.
Once the race restarted, Dylan Fachini was able to pull out a decent lead on the pack. Jeff Meltz Sr. was able to close in late, but he ended up having contact with Brown on lap 8. That was all Fachini needed to pull away and take his first career victory. Jeff Meltz Sr. was second, then Craig Coons, VanDenburg and Ray Royals.
Pure Stock Feature No. 2 saw Jim Dellea lead from the pole, but Rocco Procopio ran him down quick and took the lead on lap 2. Early in the race, Aaron Fachini stalled the No. 122 Chevrolet normally driven by Dave Fachini to bring out the race's sole yellow.
On the restart, Janai St. Pierre was able to get past Dellea for second. However, St. Pierre could do nothing with the No. 62 as Procopio pulled away to take his third win of the year. St. Pierre was second, then Dellea, Colby Kokosa and Chris Calkbro.
Pure Stock Feature No. 3 saw Dave Streibel Jr. take the lead at the start after Shawn Perez Jr. was forced to pull off due to mechanical issues. Early on, "Little Dave" ran well, but committed an unenforced error on lap 3.
Streibel Jr. jumped the cushion in turn 4, which allowed John Devine to take the lead. Once out front, Devine pulled away from the pack to take his third win of the year. Dave Streibel Jr. was second, then Rob Partridge, Chris Stalker and Dave Streibel.
The 4-Cylinder Feature had its share of controversy. Jim Guertin started from pole in his Honda Prelude and led early. Meanwhile, Lucas Ballard had quite an evening. He started eighth and was quickly advancing up the order until he had contact with Frank Twing. The contact resulted in Ballard spinning exiting turn 4 and hitting the inside wall to bring out the first yellow.
Twing was penalized for the contact and forced to drop to the rear of the field. However, Twing didn't drop back far enough and ultimately was black-flagged, ending his night.
Despite his earlier incident, Ballard's Acura Integra still had a lot of speed. He was able to charge back up from the rear to challenge for the lead. Just past halfway, he ran down Guertin and moved to the inside exiting turn 4. Meanwhile, Brandon Ely caught both of them and tried to go through the middle.
Ely made contact with Ballard's right rear corner, spinning Ballard into the outside wall. Guerin and the Chevrolet Cobalt of Garrett Biagiarelli in the process. The incident all but blocked the track, resulting in a red flag.
Ely was sent to the rear for causing the crash, which inflamed tensions in the pits. Ballard and Guertin were out on the spot. In Ballard's case, his car was leaking coolant and he had a cut left rear tire.
Bradley Batho slipped through a small hole and came out of the whole mess with the overall lead in his Single-cam Honda Civic. For the remainder of the race, Batho had to do battle with Tim Meltz. The drivers fought hard, but Batho was able to hold on to take his first career victory.
"That was a wild, bumpy ride for sure," Batho said after the race. "I don't know how I missed that wreck on the frontstretch with Lucas [Ballard]. I was right there with them and they all got together. I'm sure glad that I did because this is definitely the greatest night of my life."
Tim Meltz held on for second, while Ely came back from the rear to finish third on-track. This would have given him the Dual-Cam victory, but he lost that victory in technical inspection. According to the inspectors, Ely's Honda had different sized wheels. This violates Section 8b of the 2021 LVS 4-Cylinder Rules, which states: "All four tires and wheels must match in size and offset."
As a result, Ely was disqualified. Doug Howe was promoted to third overall and the Dual-Cam victory. Gary Malloy was fourth (third in Single-Cam), while Biagiarelli came back to finish fifth (second in Dual-Cam).
Wohrle’s Foods Modified Feature Results (30 laps): 1) J.R. Heffner, 2) Kolby Schroder, 3) Brett Haas, 4) Wayne Jelley, 5) Andy Bachetti, 6) Marc Johnson, 7) Kenny Tremont Jr., 8) Paul Gilardi, 9) L.J. Lombardo, 10) Ryan Darcy, 11) Brian Berger, 12) Chase Dowling, 13) Eddie Marshall, 14) Kyle Armstrong, 15) Chris Curtis, 16) Josh Marcus, 17) Mike King, 18) Bobby Hackel, IV, 19) Kyle Sheldon, 20) Olden Dwyer, 21) Dan Humes, 22) Timothy Davis, 23) John Ruchel, 24) Kenny Aanonsen, III
Small Block Modified Feature No. 1 Results (24 laps, from July 3): 1) Ryan Larkin, 2) Joey Coppola*, 3) Ray Hall Jr., 4) Chris Curtis, 5) Andy Bachetti, 6) Ryan Charland, 7) Olden Dwyer, 8) Kim LaVoy, 9) Frank Harper, 10) Brandon Lane, 11) Montgomery Tremont, 12) John Lutes Jr., 13) Alan Houghtaling, 14) Mark Pullen, 15) Sean Mandel, 16) Michael Sabia, 17) Brian Sandstedt, 18) Kevin Petrucci, 19) Jason Herrington
*- Kolby Schroder raced in the first Small Block feature as a substitute driver for Joey Coppola. Coppola claims the 56 points that Schroder earned for finishing second.
Small Block Modified Feature No. 2 Results (24 laps): 1) Andy Bachetti, 2) Kolby Schroder, 3) Chris Curtis, 4) Brandon Lane, 5) Ray Hall Jr., 6) Ryan Charland, 7) Ryan Larkin, 8) Frank Harper, 9) Kim LaVoy, 10) Montgomery Tremont, 11) Sean Mandel, 12) Mark Pullen, 13) John Lutes Jr., 14) Alan Houghtaling, 15) Olden Dwyer, 16) Michael Sabia, 17) Kevin Petrucci, 18) Brian Sandstedt, 19) Jason Herrington
Pro Stock Feature Results (20 laps): 1) Jason Meltz, 2) Chad Jeseo, 3) Jay Fitzgerald, 4) Zach Seyerlein, 5) Steven LaRochelle, 6) Nick Hilt Jr., 7) Doug Olds, 8) Johnny Rivers, 9) Dave Stickles, 10) Zach Sorrentino, 11) Brian Keough, 12) Tom Dean, 13) Tom O’Connor, 14) Shawn Perez
Pure Stock Feature No. 1 Results (10 laps): 1) Dylan Fachini, 2) Jeff Meltz Sr., 3) Craig Coons, 4) Keri VanDenburg, 5) Ray Royals, 6) Jethro Rossman, 7) Ryan Brown, 8) Franklin Smith, 9) Brian Walsh
Pure Stock Feature No. 2 Results (10 laps): 1) Rocco Procopio, 2) Janai St. Pierre, 3) Jim Dellea, 4) Colby Kokosa, 5) Chris Calkbro, 6) Christopher Brown, 7) Peter Huntoon, 8) Scott Morris, 9) Aaron Fachini
Pure Stock Feature No. 3 Results (10 laps): 1) John Devine, 2) Dave Streibel Jr., 3) Rob Partridge, 4) Chris Stalker, 5) Dave Streibel, 6) Shawn Perez Jr., 7) Katarina Foster, 8) Chris Murphy
4-Cylinder Single-Cam Feature Results (15 laps): 1) Bradley Batho, 2) Tim Meltz, 3) Gary Malloy Sr., 4) Joe Wolfe, 5) Joey Batho, 6) Althea Roy, 7) Austin McDonald
4-Cylinder Dual-Cam Feature Results (15 laps): 1) Doug Howe, 2) Garrett Biagiarelli, 3) Steve Burbank, 4) Jim Guertin, 5) Lucas Ballard, 6) Helina Yeno, 7) Frank Twing Sr., 8) Jon Sheppard, 9) Rob Miner. DQ: Brandon Ely